A day after dropping their Maui Jim Invitational opener to Wisconsin, the Aggies were looking to bounce back against the Butler Bulldogs. The beginning of this game looked eerily similar to the matchup against the Badgers, leaving many covering their eyes hoping to avoid another second half collapse. However, the Ags showed the ability to close out inferior teams that they showcased in the first 4 games of the season and held off a late surge to beat Butler, 57-50.
It was another hot start for A&M as they were getting and hitting open looks early. The Ags opened up a six-point lead in the first seven minutes of the game, but Butler countered by going on a 9-2 run to take a 16-15 lead just four minutes later. However, the Aggies stabilized their offense and utilized a surge in defensive pressure to create a flurry of steals and turnovers. The Ags leveraged 9 Butler turnovers and 7 steals to in the final seven minutes of the first half to close on a 16-3 run. Quenton Jackson provided the exclamation point, hitting a buzzer beater three pointer on an offensive rebound by Javonte Brown to give A&M a 33-21 lead.
The first ten minutes of the second half were a back-and-forth flow that ultimately left the Aggies with a 12 point lead at the 10:00 mark. Butler guard Jair Bolden hit a 3 pointer 44 seconds later, kicking off a 13-4 run for the Bulldogs over the next 8:49 that cut the Aggies lead to 53-50 with 27 seconds remaining. That would be as close a Butler got. A&M crashed the defensive glass on Butler’s misses, turning this into a free-throw shooting contest down the stretch.
Quenton Jackson led the team in scoring with 15 points, going 3-3 from three and adding a couple of monster transition dunks. The Aggies shot the very well in the first half but cooled off in the second, finishing with 41.2% from the field and 36.4% from beyond the arc. Free throws were a struggle for the Ags in a way that we haven’t seen this season, going 11-21 from the stripe. Both teams finished with identical rebounding stats, but the difference in the game were the 21 points for the Aggies off of 19 Bulldog turnovers and 12 Aggie steals.
Looking Ahead to Notre Dame
As you’re finishing off the pumpkin and pecan pie tonight, you can watch the Aggies’ late night showdown with the Fighting Irish for the consolation championship at 10:30 PM CT on ESPN2. The Aggies and Irish have never met on the basketball court, so this will be a certain degree of novelty to this one. ND comes into this matchup with a 3-1 record, including a loss to Saint Mary’s in their tournament opener. The Irish followed up that loss with a 90-64 drubbing of tourney host Chaminade last night.
Notre Dame doesn’t sport the typical Big 10-esque lineup that you might expect for a midwestern team. Their 7-man rotation is led in scoring by Paul Atkinson, Jr. Atkinson, a graduate transfer from Yale, was the 2019-20 Ivy League Player of the Year for the Bulldogs. At 6’9”, he’s a versatile big with good footwork and a strong finishing touch around the rim. Dane Goodwin is the primary distance threat for the Irish, shooting 43.8% from three this season. Notre Dame is a highly experienced team that starts seniors at all five positions and takes very good care of the basketball. However, Head Coach Mike Brey typically runs an 7-man rotation, so the Aggies may look to push the pace and see if they can create foul trouble for the Irish and push them further into their bench.
DraftKings Sportsbook currently lists the Aggies as 4-point underdogs* for this matchup, but I like the Aggies chances to keep this one competitive and potentially leave Vegas with another win.
*Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.